Posts for Category Humor

But of that day and hour knoweth no man

In which Bill considers biblical confusion about when midnight is
Sep 032014

I saw a man today wearing a t-shirt printed on the back with:

Don’t wait until midnight

Just as I was starting to make guesses about what was going to happen at midnight, he turned around and I saw the front:

No man knows the date or the hour

I know enough Bible to get that this is a reference to The Rapture:* Don’t think you can wait until the last minute to get yourself sorted out with God, because no one knows when he might show up and slaughter all the unrepentant masses.

But my first thought was that this is good advice for life generally: no one knows what you mean when you say midnight. If God announced that everyone should be packed and ready to go at midnight on April 18, at least half of his followers would miss the Rapture Train because they showed up at the end of April 18 instead of the beginning. That’s why lawyers don’t use midnight in contracts: they use 11:59pm or 12:01am (and if you’re listening, God, be sure to specify which time zone you’re referring to, too).

The Bible doesn’t actually cite midnight as the cause of the confusion, but we can interpret it that way:

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father….Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.

Clearly, one of those men and one of those women were confused about what midnight refers to. I don’t know what this house is all of a sudden, or why God’s return is being likened to a thief breaking into a house (isn’t his return supposed to be a good thing?), or why the Bible is telling us to keep watch when it is also telling us that there is no point in keeping watch because we cannot know when to keep watch, but “keep watch” obviously means “make sure your am/pm is set right on your watch and understand when midnight is.”

The advice from the United States Institute of Standards and Technology is slightly more straightforward :

Are noon and midnight referred to as 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.?

This is a tricky question because 12 a.m. and 12 p.m. are ambiguous and should not be used.

To illustrate this, consider that “a.m.” and “p.m.” are abbreviations for “ante meridiem” and “post meridiem,” which mean “before noon” and “after noon,” respectively. Since noon is neither before noon nor after noon, a designation of either a.m. or p.m. is incorrect. Also, midnight is both twelve hours before noon and twelve hours after noon.

It is fair to say, however, that the shortest measurable duration after noon should be designated as p.m. For example, it would be applicable for a digital clock changing from 11:59:59 a.m. to 12:00:00 to indicate p.m. as soon as it the 12:00 appears, and not delay the display of the p.m. by a minute, or even a second. The same is true for midnight, but there is an added issue of which day midnight refers to (see below).

Hours of operation for a business or other references to a block of time should also follow this designation rule.
For example, a business might be open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon or weekends from 3:30 p.m. until midnight.

Is midnight the end of a day or the beginning of a day?

When someone refers to “midnight tonight” or “midnight last night” the reference of time is obvious. However, if a date/time is referred to as “at midnight on Friday, October 20th” the intention could be either midnight the beginning of the day or midnight at the end of the day.

To avoid ambiguity, specification of an event as occurring on a particular day at 11:59 p.m. or 12:01 a.m. is a good idea, especially legal documents such as contracts and insurance policies. Another option would be to use 24-hour clock, using the designation of 0000 to refer to midnight at the beginning of a given day (or date) and 2400 to designate the end of a given day (or date).


Insert scary noises and lightning bolts here.
Matthew 24:3643, New International Version, boring parts omitted.

Joan Miró, technology visionary?

Did Joan Miró paint a picture of a laptop computer in 1922?
Jun 132012

The National Gallery of Art currently has a large exhibition of works by Joan Miró. It’s  a well-organized show that does a great job of providing background and context for his work. As for the art itself, I like his earlier paintings, but the later, more abstract work mostly does not resonate with me.

One of the best-known early-period paintings is “The Farm,” which Miró painted in 1921–22 and which was once owned by Ernest Hemingway.

image of "The Farm" painting by Joan Miró
National Gallery of Art / Successió Miró/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

There’s a lot going on in there, but take a look toward the bottom right corner. What’s that rooster sitting on?

detail of a section of "The Farm" by Joan Miró

I spent a long time staring at this up close at the museum, and I’m pretty sure it’s a laptop computer with a pie chart on the screen. Maybe that rabbit was working on a spreadsheet?

May 222012

I’ve discovered that I have quite a backlog of pictures on my phone of things that need to be made fun of commented on. Here’s the first one:

van with sign on side: "Psychic reading. Call for appomiment"

There’s an obvious and old joke–why would I need an appointment? Doesn’t the psychic know I’m coming? But mainly I can’t figure out where “appomiment” comes from. At first I thought it might be carried over untranslated from the psychic’s non-English native language, but I haven’t yet turned up a language where “appomiment” is legal. Most of the results from a Google search are Google Books results where the optical character recognition software misread a properly-spelled appointment. There were, however, a few human-generated occurrences of “appomiment.” It’s hard to tell, given that most people posting on the Web are only semi-literate, but they seem to come from native English speakers.

On Facebook, Becky Princess Butterworth shares her “eye brow waxin” appomiment needs with the whole world.

In a pain management discussion, a forum poster writes,

look when i am in a flair up with my back i get spacy with the pain more so than the meds i blow off appomiments and work and forget a lot of things … you need to set up a appomiment with your doctor … let him know how you feel tell him you want him to manage “ALL YOUR MEDS”….

In another forum we find

Hi i am 13 weeks and 3 days today and just wanted to know how long it is between your frist midwife appomiment and the secound one as they have sent me a date for januery and baby is due in april.

And then, bless his heart, there’s Sal, writing a blog called “My Day’s“:

welp this hetectic weekend is over thank god, i didn’t like it at all ahah well today i didn’t get to go to school..darn and i was lookin forward to it too, no but i went all the way to novato for a chiropracter appomiment for my back cuz it hurts alot and cuz the accident thingy just wanted to make sure speakin of the accident its all over and done with the guy fixed his car him self. the only bad thing is that sals car going to car heaven tomorrow! hahah it was blowin hela oil out the tail pipe today it was horrible, poor piston rings..haha wheee whoo im going to starbucks tomorrow morning! haah man i dont have a car now! that bites hela hard welp haha i dont really want to type this today like usual ahah i just typed hela shit so ya ima go get a bowl of honey nut cherrios and a bannana! YUMMY!

You don’t have to read around long on My Day’s to realize that a) bold white text on a black background makes your head hurt* and b) Sal is deficient in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and, most importantly, a sense of irony:

Shit man haven’t wrote in the for daaaaays!!! this is going to be humongo big like emilys balls! hahahahaha anyway umm this week was purtty chill. In english we got this book and it hurts my brain hella bad…its like from the south and its a black person point of view and the spelling is so fucked up! ahah its like impossible to read..i was lauhgin when i teacher was reading it out loud! so umm ya that’s about it nothing exciting went down …..oh on thrus me n chirs went to Starbucks..haha it was great then we went to get ross HA HAHAHA OMG HAHA it was great his car only has 2 seats so ross had to ride in the back were the spare tire was..ahaha and their is no carpet stuff back their just metal..ahah it was great then we turned the stearo up hella and let the 12″ bumb out ross ear..

Occasionally he does realize that he might be misspelling something:

so i stayed home…bored…went to walmart and got Co2 and pellets for my pellet gun, gonna shoot me sum possems!!(SP) haha ya we have them in our back yard! haha and man do i gottta PEEE! haha i just dont want to get up

I frequently see “(SP)” used in situations like this and I always wonder: Why does he care that he’s misspelling possum but doesn’t care that he’s also misspelling every third word that he writes? And, if he’s aware that he doesn’t know how to spell the word, why doesn’t he go look it up? A quick Web search wouldn’t take much more time than typing “(SP).”

Back at “appomiment,” I’m still stumped as to how people end up writing appointment that way. I’ve never heard it pronounced as “appomiment” or anything close.  When I went to search Bing, I noticed from the suggested searches that “appomient” and “appoiment” are popular mistakes:


“Appoiment” makes sense as a typo or misspelling based on mispronunciation, but “appomient” is just as baffling to me as “appomiment.” In this example the writer uses both “appoiment” and “appomient,” suggesting that maybe she thinks it’s spelled “appoiment” and “appomient” is a typo for “appoiment” (bonus: another use of “(sp)” for one misspelling in a sea of them):

i need serious answeres no answere like”ewww” or “go to the doctors” i have had this problem my hole life and have gone to doctor appoiment and doctor appomient and need some answeres i have had ultra sounds and upper gis and a colonoscapy(sp?) okso heres my prob i can go like a week and some times up to 2 weeks with out going to the bathroom and when i go to the bathroom i am in so much pain some times i would rather just die then have to go to the bathroom and i get naushies 90% of the time when i go to the bathroom i will almost puke my mouth will fill up with spit like some on eturned on a faucet and then i will have diariha and be sick as a dog for likr 3days

And I’ll end with that lovely image fresh in your mind. If any of you, dear readers, can shed some light on this “appomiment” thing, please pipe up.



Sal complains that he’s getting a D in his web design class at school. He blames it on the fact that he “missed 3 weeks from the flu” but I suspect there might be other factors.

A cheaper alternative to spending $4.3 million for a dull photograph

A boring photograph just sold for $4.3 million. Here's a cheaper alternative.
Nov 162011

I don’t think I had ever heard of Andreas Gursky until I read yesterday that one of his photographs just sold for $4.3 million, making it the most expensive photograph ever sold. Christie’s auction house describes the photograph, Rhein II, as “a dramatic and profound reflection on human existence and our relationship to nature on the cusp of the 21st century.” OK. Whatever. Here’s the photograph:

Andreas Gursky's Rhein II
Andreas Gursky/Christie’s Images, Ltd., 2011

The Guardian reports that

The desolate featureless landscape shown in Rhine II is no accident: Gursky explained in an interview* that it is his favourite picture: “It says a lot using the most minimal means … for me it is an allegorical picture about the meaning of life and how things are.”

In fact the artist carefully digitally removed any intrusive features – dog walkers, cyclists, a factory building – until it was bleak enough to satisfy him.

That’s right: it’s not really even a photograph–it’s a Photoshop composition.

Well, I suppose the buyer will enjoy bragging about owning it.


But maybe your taste is different from mine, and you think that this “photograph” is interesting. Maybe you even hoped to purchase it, but got outbid. Well, here’s some good news. Shortly after I saw Rhein II, I happened to walk past a cactus that I have in my house, and noticed a similarity.

So I cropped a picture of it…

cactus detail

…and then spent 10 minutes in Photoshop until I was satisfied that it was conveying my intended message about the meaning of life and how things are:

Bill's Cactus II photograph, which is almost as good as Gursky's Rhein II
Cactus IICourtesy of Bill

It’s not my best Photoshop work, since I’m working without benefit of my dominant hand and also didn’t want to waste a lot of time on this, so I’m offering it for sale at the bargain price of $4,338.50, which is 0.1% of what Gursky’s photograph sold for. I’d say Cactus II is at least one tenth of one percent as interesting to look at as Rhein II is, so it seems like a fair price. Now, for this unbelievably low price, you’re getting an unframed print that’s about 30 inches long. I realize that part of the appeal of Gursky’s work is the large size of the prints. Therefore, I am also offering my photograph glass mounted at 80″ x 140″ (about the same size as Rhein II) for the still very reasonable price of $43,385.

Or, if you think that both Gursky’s photograph of the Rhein and mine of my cactus are actually quite dull, by all means take a look through my gallery and see if there’s something else you’d like instead.


I tried to watch the documentary that contains this interview, but got bored before Gursky made his appearance. I’m still not sure that Ben Lewis, with his breathless enthusiasm for Gursky, isn’t having us on.
For the record, I think some of Gursky’s other work is interesting.

Big Brother is stalking me

I recently did some Web searches involving the word "coin," and now suddenly I'm getting mail from the United States Mint. Coincidence?
Oct 262011

Bill's head on a gold coinI don’t collect coins. I’ve never been interested in the topic other than that I think numismatics is a cool word (though not as cool as numismatism, which sadly isn’t a “real” word, or numismatology, which is).* I’ve never bought anything from the United States Mint or had any other dealings with them. If I’ve ever received mail from them before I’ve forgotten it. But I did recently spend a lot of time doing Web searches that involved the word coin for my post on “to coin a phrase.”  I even stopped by the US Mint Web site when I was looking for pictures to illustrate the post. So perhaps it’s no coincidence that I opened my mailbox the other day and found this:

envelope from the US Mint

Inside was the 2011 Fall Catalog of collectible coins. I do a few Web searches and all of a sudden the United States government thinks I might want to buy some coins? Creepy.

Continue reading »

Link: Wanna Live Forever? Become A Noun

Amusing song (and animation) from NPR’s Adam Cole and Robert Krulwich about people who have become nouns.
Sep 282011

Amusing song (and animation) from NPR’s Adam Cole and Robert Krulwich about people who have become nouns.

You’ve heard of Joseph-Ignace Guillotin but did you know there was an Étienne de Silhouette? Be sure to follow through to the Time/Life photo gallery of people who became nouns (though they don’t dance like the ones in the NPR animation).

Update: The end is drawing nigher

The latest news on Judgment Day, which is guaranteed to happen on May 21.
Apr 072011

Did you know that Judgment Day is scheduled for May 21? If not, read my post from last year to get yourself caught up.

This week several Alert Readers sent me photos of this advertisement, which is up on buses and in subway stations here in Washington, DC:


I was distracted by the guy on the right side of the ad, who seems to be taking a sunset crap on a beach, but Alert Reader T—— pointed out the gold seal of biblical guarantee on the left. Now I can’t decide which one is funnier.

The Family Radio site* has an even catchier graphic:


That’s right: 2012 is not allowed. This fits in with comments by one believer quoted in a recent Washington Post article about the zaniness: “God has put his stamp of approval that this is the day…I don’t doubt it, and I don’t look at the possibility of May 22 happening.”

The full details of the biblical guarantee can be found in Family Radio’s FAQ:


The FAQ has this information for doubters who do look at the possibility of May 22 happening:

What if May 21 ends and nothing occurs?

The Biblical evidence is too overwhelming and specific to be wrong. Christ’s people can look with great confidence to this date because God promises His “beloved” He will not come upon them as a thief in the night.

God in His mercy has revealed the vital information needed to know the day. Judgment Day on May 21, 2011 will occur because the bible declares it. Anyone whom God has not saved will arrive at that day with no hope for salvation. God warns simply the “door will be shut.”

So what’s in store for us on May 21?

A great earthquake will occur the Bible describes it as “such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.” This earthquake will be so powerful it will throw open all graves. The remains of the all the believers who have ever lived will be instantly transformed into glorified spiritual bodies to be forever with God.

On the other hand the bodies of all unsaved people will be thrown out upon the ground to be shamed.

The inhabitants who survive this terrible earthquake will exist in a world of horror and chaos beyond description. Each day people will die until October 21, 2011 when God will completely destroy this earth and its surviving inhabitants.

It’s not clear to me from this summary what will happen to the living believers in this scenario, but I assume they’re supposed to go to heaven along with the believer corpses.

Sadly, the organizers of the Run for Your Lives (“a 5k obstacle course race & scavenger hunt, infested with Zombies”) did not get the memo. They invite participants to

CELEBRATE YOUR LAST DAY WITH US at the apocalypse party

You have survived the zombie invasion (for now) so celebrate your last day with, Zombie chili, hot dogs, hamburgers, assorted beverages and the all-important antidote, Beer.

But the event is on October 22, a day too late! We will all be completely destroyed by then and unable to participate.

Want more information? Visit the Family Radio site. Feeling optimistic? Register for the Run for Your Lives.


The Family Radio site and related propaganda are available in an impressive number of languages (look at the scrolling list under the judgment day graphic on the main page). Note that it’s not just the graphic that changes when you select a language—all the PDFs are also translated. These people are nothing if not thorough. Except that they didn’t include Icelandic on the list, so my friends in Iceland are all going to hell. If you speak Fulfulde (who knew?!), though, you’re covered.
Incidentally, the Washington Post article mentioned this Pew Research poll, which found that 41% of Americans believe that Jesus will return by 2050. Reassuringly, though, 46% do not believe this.

Quoth the raven nevermore

If Edgar Allan Poe had been Icelandic, "The Raven" might have turned out very differently for the smug bird: Icelandic police last week killed a raven for just the sort of hooliganism that Poe's raven was perpetrating.
Oct 142010
Neerav Bhatt

If Edgar Allan Poe had been Icelandic, “The Raven” might have turned out very differently for the smug bird.

Last week in the Icelandic town of Grundahverfi, a woman found a raven terrifying her child and dog:

The raven landed on our patio…The raven perched on the patio wall and stared …The child was terrified, screamed and ran inside with the dog. If I hadn’t managed to close the door the raven would have followed them inside. The beast then hung around on the patio croaking viciously for a long time.

Staring and croaking, of course, is exactly the sort of hooliganism that Poe’s raven was up to. Unlike the housewife in Grundahverfi, who knew better than to allow such a thing of evil into her home, Poe’s narrator foolishly flung open his shutter to allow the ominous bird of yore to flutter in and perch above the chamber door. From this perch the grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt fowl proceeded to croak at the poor man repeatedly, with its fiery eyes burning into his bosom’s core.

The narrator, not equipped with a telephone to summon assistance or a baseball bat to whack the thing with, could do no better than to plead with the craven bird to leave his home. This proved ineffectual, and the shrieking, emotionally-broken man was left to live out his days under the demon’s mocking shadow and incessant croaking.

In Iceland, though, people are of necessity more resourceful. The woman did exactly what you would expect: she telephoned the police.

I imagine the call went something like this:

“Police department. What’s your emergency?”

“Oh, it’s just ghastly!”

“What is it? Another volcanic eruption?”

“No! It’s [unintelligible sobbing]—”

“Oh, god! Not more psychopathic Americans on a killing spree!”

“No, it’s a horrible beast, tossed here ashore by a tempest!”

“You mean another polar bear floated over from Greenland?”

“No, no—worse! It’s a raven! A ghastly, grim, and ancient raven!”

“Put your head at ease, ma’am. We’re on our way!”

Fearful that the menacing bird might stab someone in the heart with its beak, an intrepid police officer “terminated” it, shouting, I imagine, “Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore, bitch!”

And that’s one raven that won’t be quoting at anyone any more.

* * *

News sources do not specify exactly how the raven was “terminated,” but police made it clear that no firearms were involved, “because that would not have been practical in the middle of a residential area.” As a friend of Bill’s Head has observed, if the Icelandic police want to be better prepared next time, they could learn a thing or two from police in Washington, DC, about shooting animals in the middle of a residential area.